Eating disorders are costly in many ways.
Most often, people think about the costs to our health and wellbeing which are significant, but the financial impact of eating disorders is rarely spoken about. I have put together a list of just some of the costs associated with having an eating disorder, which many people may not realise or be aware of.
This may seem like an obvious one, but it can be a problem for different reasons, and actually it’s one some people might not consider due to the perception that people with eating disorders ‘don’t eat’ which is painfully untrue in 99% of cases. So firstly, bingeing can be very expensive. However, even if somebody is restricting what they eat they might spend a lot of money on particular safe foods that are non-negotiable. It is also not often considered how much money it can cost to buy all the food needed for a weight restoration meal plan, which can sometimes require several calorie dense snacks and meals per day.
Eating disorders can cause many different health problems. These can often require medication, sometimes short term and sometimes long term. For example, supplements are often prescribed to people who are malnourished or engaging in purging behaviours. Although these are usually available on prescription, for a lot of people prescriptions aren’t free and can end up being very expensive.
Treatment for eating disorders, both physical and psychological, can involve lots of different appointments at various locations. Whilst a handful of people might be fortunate enough to get patient transport, most people will be required to pay for petrol, trains, buses, taxis and parking themselves. This can end up being very expensive over time, especially as treatment often takes a number of months or even years.
In addition to bingeing, purging can also be very expensive. This is because people might be spending a lot of money on things like laxatives and diuretics and then also on things like electrolyte replenishers to try and counteract some of the health consequences of engaging in purging behaviours.
Not everybody with an eating disorder will experience changes to their weight but many people do. This will often result in going up or down clothes sizes, meaning people will eventually want or need to buy new clothes and donate or sell ones that don’t fit anymore. Buying new clothes can be mentally very distressing in addition to the financial burden.
There are a lot of people who need to take time off sick as a result of their eating disorder. Whilst some people might be in stable jobs with good sick pay, this is not the case for everybody. There will be people on zero hour contracts, new jobs, working part time, only entitled to statutory sick pay and many more situations that make taking time off very challenging financially.
Having an eating disorder on your medical records can make it very difficult to get insurance of various kinds including travel insurance and life insurance. In some cases, it can be declined altogether, and in instances where it is granted there are often exclusions or huge premiums that can be unaffordable.
Unfortunately, a very small percentage of people with an eating disorder are able to get treatment on the NHS in the UK. This means that often people can be forced to seek private health care in order to recover. In countries without public health care this is also a significant issue.
Eating disorders can cause havoc to people’s teeth, as a result of malnutrition, bingeing and purging. This can be incredibly painful but a lot of damage is still considered cosmetic, meaning that there are often huge payments required to rectify dental issues, and even non-cosmetic treatment can still be costly.
Being under financial pressure can be hugely stressful and prevent people from seeking help. Treatment is inaccessible for a number of reasons, and cost is a rarely considered but significant one.